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Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb (1980)

The decision to drop the atom bomb, the secrecy surrounding the mission, and the men who flew it.


David Lowell Rich


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Billy Crystal ... Lieutenant Jacob 'Jake' Beser
Kim Darby ... Lucy Tibbets
Patrick Duffy ... Colonel Paul Tibbets
Gary Frank ... Major Tom Ferebee
Gregory Harrison ... Captain Bob Lewis
Stephen Macht ... Major Wiiliam 'Bud' Uanna
Walter Olkewicz ... Sergeant Shug Crawford
Robert Pine ... Captain William 'Deke' Parsons
James Shigeta ... Field Marshall Abehata
Robert Walden ... J. Robert Oppenheimer
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... Alexander Sachs
Richard Herd ... General Groves
Henry Wilcoxon ... Secretary of War Stimson
Stephen Roberts Stephen Roberts ... President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Michael Tucci ... Captain Claude Eatherly


The decision to drop the atom bomb, the secrecy surrounding the mission, and the men who flew it.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

23 November 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Enola Gay See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Viacom Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


[All trivia items for this title are spoilers.] See more »


Major Tom Ferebee has to unroll his autographed "Short Shot" money roll to help Colonel Paul Tibbets and himself remember the last name of Theodore "Dutch" van Kirk. In actuality the three men had flown over 40 combat missions together on the same crew in Europe, and it is highly improbable that either Tibbets or Ferebee, let alone both of them, would have forgotten van Kirk's name. See more »


Colonel Paul Tibbets: Improperly commandeered an airplane...
Captain Bob Lewis: I was on official business.
Colonel Paul Tibbets: Lost in the middle of a snowstorm...
Captain Bob Lewis: Do you expect me to control the weather?
Colonel Paul Tibbets: Didn't occur to you to use instruments...
Captain Bob Lewis: My compass was out, SIR.
Colonel Paul Tibbets: Set down in the middle of a corn field...
Captain Bob Lewis: It was on the approach to the airport.
Colonel Paul Tibbets: So why didn't you use the airport?
Captain Bob Lewis: Because I was out of gas! It was one gorgeous piece of flying.
See more »

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User Reviews

Brighter Than a Thousand Suns.
11 October 2017 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Serviceable TV movie about the men who dropped the first atomic bomb in warfare in 1945, destroying the Japanese city of Hiroshima and initiating the end of the war. I suspect the subtitle -- "The Men, The Mission, The Bomb" -- was added to alert younger viewers to the fact that the movie had something to do with a bomb being dropped somewhere. Recent polls suggest that students are no long familiar with even the general outlines of the period. Substantial numbers think that "Watergate" took place around 1900 and that they thought the USSR was one of our enemies. In the UK, too many students think the Holocaust is an amusement park ride and Hitler was a football coach. I swear I'm not making this up.

There is of course -- there MUST be -- some domestic drama in the story. In this case, it's the same as that envisioned in another feature about pilot Paul Tibbetts, "Above and Beyond." "Paul, I have something to tell you. The children and I will be staying at my mothers." "So you're leaving me?" "It just got too confusing." The wife is disturbed by -- well, let the experienced viewer pick the right answer. (A) Her husband's increasing distance and irritability due to his burdensome responsibilities; (b) Wendover AFB's plumbing is not up to snuff; (c) Paul Tibbet's plumbing is not up to snuff.

CORRECT! The film is a bit stretched out because of the domestic episodes, though they involve an appealing and quietly suffering Kim Darby, and because of semi-comedic efforts of Billy Crystal as an Air Force Lieutenant trying to ditch the bulky MP who has been assigned to accompany him as a bodyguard and watchman. In the course of their training at Wendover in the middle of Utah's Great Basin desert and later on Tinian Island in the Marianas, comic incidents take place, friendships are tested, and Lt. Col. Tibbets grows ever more contentious.

Some of the lesser characters deliver weak performances. Their unpracticed voices stand out like gastropods on their poduncles. But not the principals, like Patrick Duffy, Stephen Macht, or James Shigeta. There is a striking scene in which Duffy, as Tibbets, is disgusted with the recklessness of an old friend, Gregory Harrison, and snaps out to his commanding officer, Macht, that he wishes somebody could just get rid of Harrison. Macht turns slowly and looks up at him with surprise and an expression of dead earnest. "Really? (pause) Okay." Duffy, grasping the covert message, hastens to add, "No, no -- not that way."

The screenplay is adequate, not insulting. James Shigeta represents the view of the Japanese officer committed to the support of the emperor while others plot to depose Hirohito and continue fighting. His younger brother, a teen, is swept up in the Kamikaze and dies in an act of altruistic suicide. Impressive job by Shigeta. He writes his brother a poem, which is taken along on the last flight. Our conception of masculinity is stiflingly constricted. The Japanese pilots left poems and hand-carved dolls for their loved ones. The generals of Ancient Greece discussed the philosophy of aesthetics the night before battle. If our soldiers did anything like that, they'd have one foot in fairydom.

The continuity is flawed. Billy Crystal, playing the usual Jewish wise guy from Brooklyn, has been kept in total darkness about the mission, but enters a room in which a miniaturized and devitaminized Robert Oppenheimer played by Robert Walden, gives a thirty-second chalkboard explanation of a weapon only a graduate in physics could understand, and Crystal emerges from the room fully enlightened as to the nature of the bomb and his own inclusion in the mission to drop it. It would take longer than that to learn elementary basket weaving.

Nice shots of airplanes in flight. I wonder how many have been inside a B-29. It was a mammoth of the period by any standard and the most technologically advanced but it was a bitch to fly. Pilots nicknamed it "the beast." But, as gigantic as it looks, I managed to climb inside one at the museum at Wright-Patterson in Dayton, Ohio, and it was surprisingly crowded. You crawl around and bang your head.

Hard to tell how closely the film sticks to historical fact. I don't know, for instance, that Crystal and his new friend and former MP shadow have a shoot out in a Tinian cave and the MP is killed, prompting Crystal to brood, however briefly, over the meaning of life. And I was under the impression that the bomb had to be armed in flight by a naval officer, the US Navy not wanting to have this epic event depicted as an all-Army show.

In any case, the Enola Gay with Tibbet in the left seat dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, Bock's Car dropped another on Nagasaki, and in a few days Japan surrendered and World War II was at an end.

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